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As NATO, EU Meetings Loom, Greece, FYROM Rush for Name Deal

June 10, 2018

Greece is still trying to reach an agreement to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) keep the name Macedonia – an abutting ancient Greek province – in a new composite and lift a veto that would allow the Balkan neighbor to get into NATO and the European Union, with both bodies holding meetings this week.

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the ruling anti-nationalist Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is keen to give the name Macedonia away over the objection of most Greeks – including his own junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) – expects it will happen although he hasn’t been right yet.

In an interview with Nea Selida newspaper, Tzanakopoulos said Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias have finally made FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev agree to make concessions except for agreeing to change his country’s Constitution to remove irredentist claims on Greek lands and stop calling itself Macedonia and use a new name domestically and internationally.

Those were the key conditions hanging up a deal but the talks are being kept secret from the citizens of both countries who aren’t allowed to know what’s going on although Zaev said he’d hold a referendum while Tsipras won’t.

The names on the table have qualifiers such as Upper, Northern and New, recommended by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who has failed for two decades to find a solution.

He resumed talks this year after a three-year break amid speculation it was done because the US wants to get FYROM into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.

According to reports, 95 percent of the negotiations have been completed and only a few details remain before a final agreement, said Kathimerini.

If a deal is reached, the deal will be put to a Parliament vote in FYROM before the EU summit and then to a referendum, most likely in September as Zaev is facing strong opposition from nationalists.

If the deal is approved in September’s referendum then the way will be paved for the revision of FYROM’s constitution – a key Greek demand, but if voters reject the deal then it’s off and Zaev’s coalition government, which includes nationalists vehemently opposed to any agreement, could come apart.

“FYROM’s government remains committed to finding a solution that will protect and strengthen the dignity and identity of (its) citizens,” a government official said, according to MIA news agency, spouting the same diplomatic platitudes that say nothing.

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